Stepanek survives 78-ace onslaught, Czechs lead
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:44
He only mustered two break points in nearly six hours of tennis, but it was enough for Radek Stepanek to edge past Ivo Karlovic 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 7-6(6) 6-7(2) 16-14 as the Czech Republic took a 2-0 Davis Cup semi-final lead against Croatia in Porec.
“I fought for my country,” Stepanek said, who saw Tomas Berdych overcome Marin Cilic in the second rubber to put the visitors one win away from the final. “It was an amazing game.”
Karlovic hit 78 aces in the marathon encounter, breaking both his Davis Cup and all-time records for the most aces in a single match.
His previous bests had stood at 47 on Davis Cup duty as he beat James Blake in the Croatia-USA quarter-final tie earlier this year, while his all-time record of 55 aces against Lleyton Hewitt at this year’s French Open was also set in defeat.
“I feel like I was in a 10-round boxing match,” said Karlovic, who broke just once in the first set, but saw four match points pass him by in the fifth. “Everything hurts.”
Berdych didn’t need quite as long as Stepanek to see off US Open quarter-finalist Marin Cilic, but had to survive a spirited fightback from the 20-year-old Croatian to close out a 6-3 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-3 win.
The Czechs are now on the verge of their first final appearance since 1980. In contrast, defending champions Spain made it look easy at home to Israel, racing to a 2-0 lead with two straight-set victories.
On the clay courts of Murcia, David Ferrer beat Harel Levy 6-1 6-4 6-3 before Juan Carlos Ferrero, drafted in to replace the injured Rafael Nadal, made light work of Dudi Sela in a 6-4 6-2 6-0 victory.
Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez will bid to end the tie against Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram in today’s doubles.
In the World Group play-offs, Roger Federer helped Switzerland to a 2-0 lead over Italy with a 6-3 6-4 6-1 win over Simone Bolelli in Genoa after Stanislas Wawrinka had put the visitors ahead with a 6-4 6-1 6-2 win over Andreas Seppi.
Robin Soderling hauled Sweden back into contention against Romania with a 6-2 6-1 7-5 win over Victor Crivoi after Andreas Vinciguerra limped out of the first rubber while trailing Victor Hanescu 7-6(5) 7-6(10) after spraining his ankle.
Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki have put Serbia in the driving seat against Uzbekistan after winning both the opening singles
India lead South Africa 2-1 after Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna doing the damage in the singles, before Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi forfeited Saturday’s doubles to give the hosts hope.
The Indian pair retired against Wesley Moodie and Jeff Coetzee with the South Africans leading 6-3 3-6 4-0 when Bhupathi injured himself.
In other World Group action, France and the Netherlands shared a rubber apiece on day one, as did Brazil and Ecuador, while Belgium and Chile took 2-0 leads against Ukraine and Austria respectively.
Elsewhere, Andy Murray has declared himself fit to play with Ross Hutchins in the doubles of Great Britain’s crunch Euro-Africa Zine I play-off tie against Poland.
Murray made no secret of the recurrence of the left wrist injury that had affected him in New York, and there were doubts that he would play two more matches in the next two days as a result.
The practice partners will face the world No.11 pair Marcin Matkowski and Mariusz Fyrstenberg in a bid to regain the initiative, having claime a rubber apiece on day one.